Bioproducts research projects
Barley Bioproducts Opportunies Project (BBOP)
Now complete, the Barley Bioproducts Opportunities Project (BBOP) was an important first step to discover the potential of barley and how it could be used in the emerging field of biorefining. In a matter of a few months, a world-class team of researchers and analysts investigated barley’s potential. It could be used in everything from functional foods to health and wellness applications to industrial applications such as ethanol for fuelling vehicles and distillers grains for livestock feed.The project was successful in meeting the following objective and deliverable:
Objective: To address questions related to Barley as a potential crop platform for ethanol production and other value added bio-refining opportunities.
Deliverable: A reliable tool box of information for producers, community organizations and other organizations to potentially develop barley based bio-refineries.
“We wanted to provide reliable, evidence-based technical information on how barley compares to benchmark grains like wheat and corn in traditional industrial markets,” stated project manager Carman Read. “Our view was that for barley to be competitive in traditional industrial markets we needed to leverage its functional and physiological attributes and identify specific ways we could capture more value out of barley from a broader range of market segments.”
While BBOP was influenced by the swell of cornbased ethanol plants in the United States, it goes well beyond “biofuel North.”
“From the beginning we took a broader approach,” Mike Leslie, chief executive officer of the Alberta Barley Commission, a joint sponsor of BBOP, said. “We wanted to look at if and how barley could be used in biofuels as well as other biorefined products like distillers grains for livestock feed and fractions for functional food and nutraceuticals.
“We’ve always recognized barley is a unique grain and we wanted to find unique opportunities for our producers. And, of course, we wanted to maintain our existing customer base and continue to provide significant feedstock to our established feed, food and malt customers.”
The three-phase project began in May 2007 with two key components: technical research and a business feasibility evaluation. On the technical side, BBOP focused on:
• Identifying unique higher-value compounds in barley and assessing processing strategies to preserve and concentrate them
• Dehulling barley or utilizing hulless barley in the production process
• Analyzing the ethanol yield potential of select benchmark barley cultivars including Viterra’s Xena, CDC Bold and CDC Fibar barley
• Comparing the ethanol yields of these barley cultivars to corn (Pioneer Hi-bred) and wheat (Canadian Prairie Spring)
• Identifying new processing strategies focusing on higher levels of starch conversion in the barley cultivars
• Identifying strategies to deal with beta glucan in the barley cultivars
• Identifying and leveraging any unique nutritional aspects of barley distillers grains.
BBOP’s key findings
• Researchers found modifying the cold hydrolysis system of converting barley starch to fermentable sugars, generically known as the Stargen method, yielded higher results
• Analysis of the dried distillers grains plus solubles (distillers grains) found barley was highest in invitro digestibility and had lower residual starch content than corn. By comparison, corn was highest in crude fat and lowest in crude protein and in vitro digestibility, and wheat was highest in crude protein
• Potential co-products of barley biorefining include protein, fibre, fatty acids and tocols
• The Stargen method of fermentation, which uses a new line of enzymes, reduces the heat needed for processing (potentially lowering operating costs and increasing profits)
• This method also exposes distillers grains to less heat, which may result in undenatured proteins (undenatured distillers grains proteins are worth two to three times more than denatured proteins).
This article is an excerpt from BBOP Update April 2008. For a copy of the final report
contact: Darcy Kitzinger, research and policy coordinator, at email@example.com. Or for additional information about BBOP, see:
$30,000 Alberta Barley Commission
$262,500 Bioproducts Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), an initiative of Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF)
$30,000 in kind Western Barley Growers Association
$10,000 Ceapro Inc.
$2,000 Wilbur Ellis
$1,000 Parkland Agri-Services
Ceapro’s Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI)
Cooperating scientist: Mark Redmond, Ceapro
This project is determining the feasibility of bioethanol and preparing a business case and decision for the construction and operation of a modular ethanol plant in Alberta. The bioethanol unit comprise a large central processing unit supported by smaller regional processing units.
$10,000 Alberta Barley Commission
$300,000 Bioproducts Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), an initiative of Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF)
Additional cash and in kind support Ceapro Inc.
Travel notes from Brazil, an emerging world leader in agriculture
In January 2007, Nikki Jeffrey, office and project manager of the Alberta Barley Commission, joined 13 Canadians from government, industry and producer groups on an extensive tour of Brazil’s and Argentina’s agricultural industries. The following are highlights of her journey through Brazi, where ethanol production accounts for 40 per cent of all automobile fuel.
Our trip to South America was a first-hand glimpse into the value chains of two of the world’s emerging agricultural leaders – Brazil and Argentina. Both countries offer enormous potential and our goal was to establish international industry, research and government partnerships that would be of benefit to them and to Canadians.
In the past 17 years, Brazil has become a powerhouse in agricultural exports, in some cases gaining global market share for major commodities, among them crops such as soy bean, cotton, coffee, corn, oranges (and orange juice), sugar cane and tobacco.
It’s fascinating to analyse how Brazil’s trade and production have grown so dramatically, as this is a country that is rooted in tradition while rushing into the future. Agriculture is a huge part of the Brazilian economy accounting for one-third of its gross domestic product.
Brazil agri-business exports were US$49 billion in 2006; sugar and ethanol exports made up roughly a seventh of that, US$7.77 billion. This is, simply said, a vast country which exports vast quantities of beef, poultry, pork, soybeans (oil and meal), corn and cotton.
Brazilians are adopting modern technology at a pace that easily equals and exceeds that of farmers in developed nations around the world. In general, they tend to be risk-tolerant and entrepreneurial in their approach. While Canada and Brazil do compete in some agricultural markets they could still become efficient partners, particularly since Brazilians are warm and friendly, instantly accommodating and eager to share their professional and personal knowledge and expertise.
Brazil has 90 million to 100 million hectares of arable land available for development or 19 per cent of the world’s arable land. The country has five million farms and both production and total acreage under cultivation are growing. Business in Brazil is based and built on relationships and partnerships; people in agriculture there readily embrace change and technology.
Some farmers have highly mechanized operations and the latest technology. This contrasts with Brazil’s rudimentary transportation network, which by North American standards is poor. Only about 12 per cent of the country’s roads are paved, which cause logistical problems. For example, trucks are often stranded for three to four days due to rain and thick mud. Railway infrastructure is equally weak. Brazil has about 3.4 kilometres of railways for every 1,000 square kilometres (compared to 29.8 km for every 1,000 sq. km in the U.S.).
On the plus side, Brazil’s every increasing network of pipelines allows for the efficient movement of ethanol. Some aspects of farm operations are strictly regulated. Brazil’s land reform policy stipulates that land can be confiscated or returned to smallscale producers if land owners do not set aside at least 20 per cent of their farms for natural areas. In some areas, including the Amazon forest, farmers must maintain as much as 80 per cent of their land as natural area. Land owners who treat their workers unfairly can also be penalized.
One of Brazil’s biggest agricultural exports is beef, most of which is raised and finished on grass. Because grass grows easily and in abundance, there is little to no feed versus fuel fight between ethanol producers and cattle producers.
One of the businesses we visited was the family-owned USINA da Pedra sugar and ethanol plant. Sugar cane is planted and harvested for three to five years before replanting is necessary; initial production is up to 130 tonnes per hectare for the first year and decreases annually each year after.
The USINA da Pedra crushes 23 tonnes a day of sugar cane; each tonne of raw ingredient yields 90 litres of ethanol and 120 kilograms. The plant also produces a biodegradable plastic from the output. Ethanol is used in 40 per cent of Brazil’s automobiles; four out of five new cars are flex-fuel, which means the car can use either gasoline or ethanol for fuel in the same gas tank.
The Alberta Barley Commission gratefully acknowledges the support of the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund, which covered 45 per cent of Barnes’ tour expenses.
The Alberta Barley Commission’s Nikki Jeffrey was among the 13 Canadians who toured Brazil and Argentina in January 2007. The trip took her to farms, fields, and agricultural facilities across the two countries, which are rapidly becoming two of the world’s leading agricultural producers.
Brazil’s production advantages
1. Land and water are readily availability
2. The climate supports two to three crops a year
3. Technology and production practices are ideally matched to conditions
4. Qualified labour is available at a low cost
5. National and international management capacity
6. The country is attracting international investment
This article originally appeared in Barley Country April 2007.